Even non-geeks are talking about the fact that Iron Man 3 will be a Sino-foreign co-production that will be partially filmed here in the PRC. This is great news, but I worry that Disney won’t really have the right folks on the ground here to properly localize this flick. Some commentators are already passing around dangerous and unsubstantiated rumors about the possibility that Marvel villain The Mandarin might play a prominent role in the movie due to the China connection.
Obviously this is an insane suggestion, as those in the know have already pointed out. Let’s stick with reality here. A Chinese villain? I don’t think so.
If Disney really wishes to ingratiate itself with Beijing, there are some obvious quick fixes. Tony Stark could switch over to drinking Moutai (nice co-marketing potential there as well). There could be a guest appearance by Ho Yinsen, Stark’s Chinese tech mentor; they would obviously have to airbrush out any mention of the villain Wong-Chu, though. Perhaps Stark Enterprises could run into an intellectual property dispute with a Chinese company — Stark would be the infringer, of course.
But these are all little details. If Disney wants to really get the job done, it’s all about the right villain. We know that The Mandarin is a no go. Anybody else they should stay away from?
Well, yes, I do have a few suggestions for villains that Disney may wish to avoid:
1. The Mandarin (see above)
2. Wong-Chu – a Communist warlord who kidnaps Tony Stark (not a good idea)
3. Fin Fang Foom – a Silver Age dragonish bad guy (bad on so many levels)
4. Kang the Conqueror – not Chinese, but sounds like it, and did use the name “Scarlet Centurion” for a while, which sounds like a 60s-era Communist throwback (same argument can be used to exclude Ming the Merciless)
5. Ozymandias (assuming a licensing deal) – perhaps the greatest pragmatist ever, from the Watchmen GN. It’s possible that his inclusion would be seen as a criticism of China’s realist foreign policy (same argument can be used to exclude Black Adam).
I don’t want to be completely negative here. There is good news for Disney, seeing as how there are plenty of good candidates out there for Iron Man 3 villain that would probably make the higher-ups in Beijing smile.
Here are just a few:
1. Lex Luthor (assuming a licensing deal with DC) – evil genius who exemplifies the worst of corporate America; Luthor was briefly President of the U.S. I don’t see any downside here. If no license deal is forthcoming, we could go with Norman Osborn, rogue defense contractor and politician, as a Plan B.
2. Ra’s al Ghul (also a DC guy) – this baddie has his own little kingdom somewhere up in the Himalayas where the locals basically worship him and his magical mumbo-jumbo. And, um, he is really big on resurrection and immortality, one small step away from reincarnation, at least in my opinion. This one’s a political no-brainer.
3. Omni-Man (from Kirkman’s Invincible comic) – this guy basically betrayed his entire race. Doesn’t get any worse than that, and his bushy ‘stache is very alien here in China.
4. Thunderbolt Ross – rogue American general. Nuff said. He might also be the Red Hulk – not too sure about that.
5. The Punisher - vigilante, source of social instability. This is a one-man mass incident.
6. Omega Red – former KGB, child rapist. China and Russia have had a long and difficult history. This might not be a first choice, but you never know. (Alternate, if DC cooperates: KGBeast)
7. Emma Frost – with her outfit, she’s obviously a bad influence on society. But on second thought, if she was the villain, the film would never get through censorship review.
8. Japanese villain – many to choose from (Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?). An obvious way to go.
9. Two Face – another DC villain, but this could be an inspired choice. Dent was a former prosecutor, and his turn to evil reveals the decay and ugliness of the American judicial system. Might go over well in some circles.
10. Spike – your favorite Whedon vampire of all time, Spike engaged in some questionable activities during the Boxer Rebellion, including eating a Chinese Slayer. That’s pretty bad. And yes, thanks to Dark Horse, Spike is a comic book character.
(My alternate was Vandal Savage, DC immortal bad dude. I suspect he was a filthy imperialist at some point in his life, but I didn’t have enough evidence to justify his inclusion on the list.)
Feel free to send me your villain suggestions, but please, no Captain America or G.I. Joe. Put a little creativity into it.